President Rosetta Watkins boarded Marine One, her husband and three children standing next to her. She squeezed his hand. “We did it.”
He smiled at her and disappeared, along with Marine One and everything around her. The world swirled and lightheadness overcame her. She gasped. She was no longer standing, she sitting in an empty warehouse, wires attached to her head and body.
A man in a gray suit emerged. “Congratulations Governor.”
She rubbed her temples. “Governor? I haven’t been called Governor in eight years.”
The man laughed. “Oh, of course, how silly of me. This simulation feels that real. For the rest of us, only eight hours have passed. I bet you don’t even remember who I am.”
She blinked. “No, I’m sorry, I don’t. I think I met you thought.”
The man extended his bony hand. “Dr. Silas Carpenter. I decided all the pop quizzes and gotcha questions made for a lousy process for choosing a president, and I came up with something better.”
She nodded. “Now, I remember. You said you had a way that you could tell what kind of President we would be in advance. Then voters could decide based on facts about how we handled the real challenges that come with being president. ”
The man nodded and stroked his gray goatee. “You were only one of three presidential candidates to agree to come. The other two didn’t do so well. In fact, both of them were impeached by their third year in office.”
She laughed. “How did they manage that?”
“Sheer incompetence.” Carpenter shrugged and smiled. “You, on the other hand, rallied the country together and brought the economy back. You responded splendidly to terrorist attacks and reformed entitlements. You did all this while the media was doing a hatchet job on your family. You were the image of grace coming back from your sister’s suicide, and I thought your handling of your son’s drug addiction was superb. According to the simulation, you’ll leave office with a four and a half percent unemployment rate, a growing economy, and a country that’s strong, self-confident, and more united.”
This was too much.
Carpenter grinned. “When I release this data to the press, it’ll be clear to any thinking person that you’re the right person to lead this country and we can end this sham process and replace it with something scientific.”
She stood and began removing the wires. “There’s only one problem.”
Carpenter waved it off. “There couldn’t possibly be a problem.”
She stared. “I don’t know if I want the job.”
Carpenter’s mouth hung agape. “But you’ve raised millions of dollars and spent months campaigning.”
“Yeah, but I didn’t know what the job was like, good and bad. There’s no job that prepares you for it. Certainly, not Governor of Colorado.”
Carpenter cupped his hands together. “Please, we need a good president.”
She put a hand on his shoulder. “Let me think about it. This is all a shock. Your simulation was a little more realistic than I expected, maybe more realistic than you expected. I’ll let you know.”
Governor Watkins walked down the aisle. She’d done a lot of good in the simulation, maybe she could do as much good in the real world if she won. But the headaches and heartaches that had come with the job had her looking forward to retirement, time with the grandkids. She laughed. Of course, there weren’t any grandkids. The twins were still sixteen.
She walked into the lobby and stopped and looked in the mirror and looked at the streak of gray in her blonde hair. She didn’t look as old as she had on her last day in office in the sim, but she swore she looked a year older than when she came to the lab this morning.